Writing Great LinkedIn Invitations

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Idliek2addu2 Great LinkedIn invitations? Are they really that big a deal? Sure, canned messages are lame, but inviting someone to connect via LinkedIn (or any other social networking site) is just a simple matter of record-keeping. What’s wrong with just, “Hey, let’s connect?”

That’s one way to look at it. But consider this: every communication you have with someone in your network is an opportunity to move that relationship forward, to make it stronger. It’s not that there’s anything “wrong” with treating a LinkedIn invitation as a simple mechanical action, but it’s a missed opportunity. A few extra seconds can transform it into a relationship-building activity.

There’s another reason your LinkedIn invitations matter: if too many (five or so, best guess – LinkedIn doesn’t publish the actual number) of your invitations are rejected (“I don’t know the sender”) by the recipient, your account may be temporarily suspended and you will lose the ability to invite people to connect without their email address.

One way to ensure having your LinkedIn invitations accepted is to email the person before sending them a LinkedIn invitation and ask them if they’d like to connect on LinkedIn. That’s not always possible, i.e., old friends/colleagues/classmates who you’ve lost touch with. I also don’t think I’d email somebody solely for that purpose. But if you’re having an email dialog with someone already, slipping it into one of your messages is a good way to grease the skids for an invitation.

Let’s look at the “stand-alone” invitation in three scenarios: 1) someone you know well, who you are confident will accept the invitation, 2) an acquaintance or colleague that may not immediately recognize your name, and 3) someone you don’t know personally, but are interested in connecting with.

The basic format is the same in all cases:

  1. Establish context. This is the main thing that will vary between the different scenarios. More below.
  2. Invite them to connect, in your own words.
  3. Suggest a next action. Coffee. A phone call. Sending them a link. Making an introduction. If you’re particularly interested in developing this relationship, make a commitment and then keep it. Otherwise, you can put the ball in their court.

Scenario 1: Current active contact

In this case, the emphasis should be on strengthening the relationship and moving it forward. Start by recalling your most recent interaction with them, or what brought them to your mind. “It was great to see you the other day.” “Thanks for sending me a copy of your book.” “I was reading an article about widgets the other day and thought of you.” If you know them well, you may even express mild surprise at the fact that you’re not already connected.

Here are a few actual examples I’ve sent/received:

Hi Paul!

I have a friend in Seattle with a job opening — I’m hoping you might know someone it’s a fit for. It’s easiest to forward it to you via LinkedIn since that’s where the job listing is. And…we should be connected anyway! 🙂

– Scott

_______

Hi Jason – just going through and adding some of my Austin friends. Funny how you just assume you’ve connected, but never have, y’know?

Any word on those videos from the conference?

Thanks again for the Boat Show tickets — the whole family had a blast!

– Scott

_______

Hi Eileen — you came up in my "people you might know" list, and sure enough… 🙂

How are things with you these days? Any big plans for 2010?

– Scott

_______

Hello Scott,

I’ll bring the Willie book Thursday evening and I’d also like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. Cool with you?

All the best,

Sonny

_______

Hello Scott,

Good to meet you at SXSW, will have your interview up today. I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

– Brian

As you can see, it doesn’t have to be long. Those three elements can be achieved in three sentences, or even two. The elements can even be implicit – for example, when Sonny promises to “bring the Willie book”, that recalls our past conversation in the process of making a future commitment.

Scenario 2: Acquaintance

The purpose here is two-fold: first, make sure they don’t think you’re an absolute stranger if they don’t recognize your name immediately; second, re-establish the relationship and open the door for follow-up. Start by reminding them where/how you know them. This is your best guarantee against the dreaded “I don’t know…” button.

Examples:

Hey Scott!!!

How’s it going????? Been a long time since we communicated. Looks like things are going very well for you in Austin… must have been the right move to make!!! How’s your mom doing??? Is she still playing piano somewhere?

All the best to you!!

-Susan

_______

Hi Scott!

We spoke last year when I was helping John Assaraf relaunch his book Having It All. Love your About.com Entrepreneur site, and what you and Jay are doing with the Relationship Economy.

Love to connect our networks and find out who a good connection for you is.

Create a great day,

– Michelle

_______

Hi Ginger — your name came up under "people you may know" — pleasant surprise!

Are you still working with Stephen? How are things going?

– Scott

_______

Hi Scott,

Our paths haven’t crossed recently, but I remember you from Ecademy and I’d like to add you to my network on LinkedIn.

– Gordon

Scenario 3: Someone you don’t know

Let me say once again that generally, the better approach with someone you don’t know is to contact them via email or request an introduction on LinkedIn. Not everyone uses LinkedIn in the same way, and sending connection invitations to total strangers isn’t a very effective use of your time and can get you in trouble with LinkedIn.

That said, there are some exceptions. One thing LinkedIn doesn’t handle very well is asymmetrical relationships. Typically, a vendor doesn’t necessarily know a whole lot about their customer, except maybe that they pay their bill on time. Let’s take it a step farther. Is someone who bought my book a “customer”? What about someone who reads my blog? Or heard me speak? I connect with these people. And most people will, if you establish that context.

Another exception is people who are interested in hiring me. Right. Like I’m going to say “no”.

Name-dropping works too. If you say that someone I know and trust said you should get in touch with me, I’m going to accept the invitation.

Here are some real-life examples:

From one Austin guy to another, I’m lovin’ your Tweets amigo!

Matt

_______

Hi Scott, loved your webinar on Linked Intelligence, I will start making some improvements! I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

– Sue

_______

I’d like to add
y
ou to my professional network on LinkedIn. We have never met but Steve Latham is a friend and since my company is looking for experts to outsource social media services to, I would like to get to know you better.

– Mimi

_______

Hi Scott, I loved, loved, loved the Linked In seminar this morning!! Thanks much! I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. Looking forward to the QuickStart Guide.

– Christa

Oh, and flattery works. Seriously – it’s not an ego thing – it’s just nice to be sincerely appreciated.

So it’s your choice. You can send a canned invite and make it just a mechanical record-keeping act, or you can take one minute to make it a meaningful communication with a valuable business contact.

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7 Comments

  1. Great stuff here. I’ve absolutely used all those approaches by far. I like to imagine myself in an event, and what do I do or say to someone I don’t know. You can smile at first, and get their attention. But here in the virtual world, its not that easy. It can be though, especially with these tips.

    If you don’t mind me adding, if you use LinkedIn fairly well, to meet and great people, you most likely have a group of your own that you have created and manage. A niche for yourself to gain credibility.

    So along these lines, I tell people, if I see their profile, and I have interest in knowing them, because they are local, and their background is interesting. I send them an invite, and say:

    “Hello my name is Cesar, and I’m the admin for ‘Group Name Here’, and I would like to personally invite you to this group. I believe you have so much to offer and that the group would benefit your business. Please feel free to interact with the members and converse with us.

    Look forward to getting to know you more.”

    Hope that helps!

  2. very interesting post! Creating and sending invitations is a simple way to be proactive in expanding your LinkedIn network. You can quickly respond to invitations that are of real interest to you. In addition, you can create new connections by sending invitations to the contacts of your existing contacts. LinkedIn is a useful tool for your business, and you can easily take advantage of what the network has to offer.

  3. all great if i could find out how to personalize my invitation. if I add email. it just takes off without giving me a chance to change the standard invitation

  4. So true Scott! Having a great communication in your network is truly a great opportunity to get more engage and closer to them. That’s a great idea in writing great linkedIn invitations.

  5. Thanks for sharing these great tips!

    I absolutely hate the canned message LinkedIn sends. It shows people to be so lazy. Why would I want to connect with them?

    The worst ones are “since you are a person I trust, I’d like to connect with you” and don’t show the person’s picture! Does anything scream SPAM more than that?

    We all knew those were the WRONG way to build relationships. Thanks for showing us the RIGHT way!

  6. Great article, Scott. Here are two other ideas for sending LinkedIn invitations to people you don’t know:

    Hi, Scott. We have never met, but as a published author and speaker, I’m reaching out to people of like minds. Can we connect here on LinkedIn?

    -Michelle

    or

    Hello, Scott. We have many mutual connections and are currently second level connections here on LinkedIn. I’d like to upgrade that status to first level, so please accept this invitation to join my professional network on LinkedIn.

    -Michelle

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